New rules on family visits and cross-border shopping don’t apply to France

There was confusion at Belgium’s border with France on Saturday as people resident in Belgium tried to cross the border in order to visit family or go shopping in French stores. On Saturday morning an ministerial order was published allowing Belgians and those resident here to cross the borders with our neighbouring countries (including the UK via the Eurostar) in order to visit family or do “essential” shopping.

The ministerial order constitutes a considerable relaxation of the rules on cross-border traffic that have been in force since mid-March.

However, late on Saturday after the Belgian Foreign Ministry announced that the relaxation of the rules on crossing the border does not apply to France. This was in contradiction of a statement made earlier in the day by the Belgian Interior Minister Pieter De Crem (Flemish Christian democrat) who said that the ministerial order applied to “neighbouring countries, including France”.

However, the measures brought in by the French government in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in their country stipulate that France’s borders, including its border with Belgium will remain closed to all but “essential” traffic (e.g. people crossing the border to go to work, freight traffic…) until Monday 15 June.

The French authorities announced this will not change regardless of the Belgian ministerial order allowing cross-border shopping and family visits. Consequently, those wishing to visit family in France or shop at one of the hypermarkets close to the border will have to wait for another two weeks.